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Dec. 31—Editor's note: The MDJ counts down the Top 10 local stories of 2021 as determined by newsroom staff. Today's installment is No. 1.
Braves fans will likely never forget where they were the night of Nov. 2, shortly after 11:30 p.m.
The Houston Astros' Yuri Gurriel hit a bouncing ball toward Dansby Swanson, the Braves shortstop and Marietta High School alumnus. Fielding the ball, Swanson calmly got his footing and threw it to veteran first baseman Freddie Freeman. Still half-kneeling with a foot on the bag, Freeman's arms shot into the air, his mouth agape in jubilation.
With that out, the Braves had won the 2021 World Series in six games. It was their first championship in 26 years, and their second since moving to Atlanta in 1966. Atlantans rejoiced that they had put to bed the so-called curse of Georgia teams choking. For a city that has never won a Super Bowl or an NBA championship, it was a much-needed moment of unity and triumph.
The unlikely champions had been under .500 until August. They had lost key players to injuries. But a flurry of mid-season trades by general manager Alex Anthopoulos added Jorge Soler, Eddie Rosario, Joc Pederson and Adam Duvall to the roster, all of whom would shine in the postseason.
There were other storylines too — star player's Freeman's 11-year wait for a title, manager Brian Snitker's decades of toiling in the Braves' minor league teams before his call-up, Swanson the hometown hero, the January death of Braves legend Hank Aaron and the summer political dust-up caused by the MLB yanking the All-Star Game from Georgia. It was a season to remember, in more ways than one.
It was also the first World Series to be played at Cobb's Truist Park, just four years after the team's controversial move to Cumberland. Tickets for the three games at Truist went for astronomical prices. Even during the games in Houston, The Battery Atlanta, the mixed-use development surrounding the ballpark, played host to massive outdoor viewing parties.
Three days after the series ended, schools closed on a Friday and Braves fans from across the southeast descended on metro Atlanta. After parading through downtown and midtown Atlanta, the Braves drove up to Cobb. Before adoring crowds, the team rode down Cobb Parkway and through the Battery, bringing the Commissioner's Trophy home.
"This chance is once in a lifetime," as one fan told the MDJ. "You never know if this will ever happen again."